By Watipaso Mzungu
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has challenged members of Parliament (MPs) to rise above petty party politics and introduce motions, including healthy debates, that should result into the scrapping off of the 16.5 percent value added tax (VAT) on essential goods and services such as cooking oil.
The human rights watchdog has also asked the legislators to take advantage of the meeting to review some of the unjustifiable levies and tariffs on fuel, electricity and water, to ensure the reduction of the high cost of production, which is threatening the survival of the local industry.
In a statement issued this morning in Blantyre, CDEDI executive director Sylvester Namiwa says Malawians expect nothing less than a pro-poor kind of budget sitting of parliament, which should translate into a drop in the current high cost of living due to among other things, unrealistic and punitive tax policies.
Namiwa says worth noting is that the budget meeting of parliament is coming at a time when the majority of Malawians are struggling to make ends meet, due to punitive taxes, levies, high interest rates and exorbitant prices on essential services and products such as water, electricity, fuel and high mobile phone tariffs, among others.
“CDEDI would like to maintain its stand that the punitive tax regimes in the country are scaring off prospective investors, while the existing ones are closing shop, a development that has made smuggling of goods to flourish, at the expense of local production. The country is in the process exporting jobs and externalizing the much-needed forex on one hand, while on the other hand, the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) is losing out on taxes and revenue. Similarly, CDEDI is once again challenging President Chakwera to cease the opportunity to share with Malawians a very clear roadmap, detailing how his government is going to implement the Tonse Alliance manifesto, having failed to do the same during his inaugural State of the Nation (SoNA) in the 2020/2021 fiscal year. We don’t want the trial-and-error kind of leadership which we are currently witnessing, whereby the President tells Malawians one priority area today, and a totally different priority area the following day,” he says.
CDEDI has also asked the National Assembly to debate and review the 2011 Pension Act, especially sections 64 and 65 that give inhumane restrictions to access to pension funds in an event that the contributor loses a job.
According to Namiwa, the two sections have seen Malawi sending its productive citizens to an early grave due to lack of funds to pay for medical care elsewhere, when their money is lying idle with the respective pension administrators, purportedly waiting for the mandatory retirement age of 60.
“CDEDI is further challenging the MPs to ensure that they exercise their oversight role to pressurize the Tonse Alliance government to ensure that it addresses the gray areas in the MK6.2 billion Covid-19 scandal, and the MK17.5 billion allocated for the same,” he says.
Namiwa has since warned MPs to desist from towing their masters’ line in total disregard of the will of the electorates, as doing so would make us not to hesitate in mobilizing the masses to stand up against such selfish political interests.